And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them (Luke 5:29 ESV).
By the time you read this the 2008 Olympics will be over. Plenty of us will be grateful for a return to normal bedtime hours, but fewer will be more thankful for the conclusion of the Beijing games than the members of the USA 4x100 relay teams in track and field.
Marnie and I watched in disbelief last Thursday as the women runners failed to successfully pass the baton. The same affliction – whatever it was – had plagued the men’s team on Wednesday night. Like a nightmare that wouldn’t end, the repeated slow motion images wouldn’t allow any of us to wake and tell ourselves that it didn’t happen. It did happen. Reaching, straining, bobbling, looking back, looking down. And by that time the other runners are blowing right by. End of race.
More was going on in that moment than the loss of a medal. The real pain came from the glaring nature of the failure itself. Forget winning. If you can’t pass the baton to the next person, there’s no need to bother running at all. It’s all about making the connection, the execution of the transfer, the successful delivery.
When Jesus encountered a tax collector named Levi something surprising happened. At first glance it appears that the moment of high drama came with that initial call, Jesus extending the invitation to follow, Levi getting up and closing shop in response to the Rabbi’s call. Walking away from a lucrative business is a big deal.
But the truly exciting moment came just after that. Levi threw a party. He gathered other tax collector friends and people who weren’t very careful about observing the Torah. Luke doesn’t tell us much about who was there and what kind of conversations Jesus had with them. We don’t know whether any of them also made some radical life-changing decisions as a result of what Jesus said to them as they reclined at the table. But this much seems clear: whatever Levi had experienced with Jesus, he wanted to share it with his friends. He wanted Jesus to meet his friends and his friends to meet Jesus. It’s the moment of connection, of passing something along.
Grace is that way. It’s fairly common to speak of grace as something that we receive. As wonderful as that is, grace is also something that we pass on. The disturbing reality is that we have a tendency to bobble the hand-off. We drop the baton.
Wherever you may be today, you will have a chance to pass the grace of Jesus along to someone else. Honestly, you may reach out to someone who doesn’t receive it. But someone around you needs the presence of Jesus in their life, and you can bring it to them. The grace you have received was never meant to be stockpiled. The love of Jesus comes to you on its way to someone else. So run well. Run hard. And pay special attention to the handoff.
(Levi’s example raises some questions about our circle of friends. What would a party for Jesus look like at your house? Please take the poll at the top of this page.)
Lord Jesus, let my words and my actions and my demeanor convey your grace to others today. Don’t let me blow the handoff with careless and calloused ways with people around me. Help me to pass along what you’ve graciously given me, that others may be drawn to follow you. Amen.